Terrorist by John Updike is a timely piece of contemporary literature that is well-written and dense with observation and description. Updike takes readers into the mind of a terrorist and helps us understand the possible motivation and mindset of those involved in terrorism. Terrorist is an important piece of social literature, but it is not light or easy reading. It is slow at points and requires concentration to read.
Terrorist by John Updike is about Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy, an 18-year-old boy in Northern New Jersey who is devoted to Islam. Ahmad was raised by an Irish-American mother after his Egyptian father disappeared when he was three. Ahmad converts to Islam at age 11 and is instructed in the Qur'an by a local imam.
Ahmad is a sympathetic character. Updike lets readers into his head, forcing us to view American materialism and morality from his viewpoint. Updike also draws us into other characters' lives-Ahmad's mother, a high school guidance counselor, an African-American teenage girl, a worker in the Department of Homeland Security. It was striking to me how lost many of the characters were. In many ways, Ahmad was one of the most thoughtful and moral characters in the story. That is a disturbing realization when you consider that he is being groomed to be a terrorist.
Indeed, just as the protagonist is a thoughtful young terrorist, the novel Terrorist is a thought-provoking book. It is clear that Updike has thought a lot about American society, the inner city and modern morality. His descriptions and complex characters compel readers to do the same.
Terrorist is not easy reading. I did not get caught up in the plot, and that was disappointing. It was easy for me to put the novel down after 25 pages, both because I needed time to process and because it did not always keep my attention. Updike is a great writer, and Terrorist shows that; however, everyone may not like the book.
The stunning novella that concludes John Updike's acclaimed Rabbit series is now available on audio.
Set 10 years after Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's death, Rabbit Remembered returns listeners to the small Pennsylvania town where Harry's widow, Janice, and his son, Nelson, still reside. They are faced with a surprise when Annabelle, Harry's 39-year-old illegitimate daughter, arrives on the scene, bringing with her ghosts from the past.
Ben Turnbull is a retired investment executive living North of Boston in the year 2020. A recent war between the USA and China has thinned the population and brought social chaos. He finds his personal history caught up in the disjuntions and vagaries of the "many universes" theories.
S. is Sarah Worth – doctor's wife, North Shore matron, loving mother, and now (suddenly!) ardent follower of a Hindu religious leader known as the Arhat. As this brilliant and very funny novel opens, Sarah is fleeing the confinement of her suburban life to become a sannyasin (pilgrim) at her guru's Arizona ashram.
In the letters and audiocassettes that Sarah sends to her husband, daughter, mother, brother, best friend – to her psychiatrist and her hairdresser and her dentist – master novelist John Updike gives us a witty comedy of manners, a biting satire of life on a religious commune, and the story – deep and true – of an American woman in search of herself.
National Book Award for Fiction
In a small Pennsylvania town in the late 1940s, schoolteacher George Caldwell yearns to find some meaning in his life. Alone with his teenage son for three days in a blizzard, Caldwell sees his son grow and change as he himself begins to lost touch with his life. Interwoven with the myth of Chiron, the noblest centaur, and his own relationship to Prometheus, The Centaur one of John Updike's most brilliant and unusual novels.
The assumptions and obsessions that control our daily lives are explored in tantalizing detail by master novelist John Updike in this wise, witty, sexy story. Harry Angstrom – known to all as Rabbit, one of America's most famous literary characters – finds his dreary life shattered by the infidelity of his wife, Janice. How he resolves – or further complicates – his problems, makes for a novel of the first order.
Rabbit Redux is the second of five John Updike Rabbit novels, all of which focus on their central character Harry Angstrom. In Rabbit Redux, Harry Angstrom – known to all as Rabbit, one of America's most famous literary characters – finds his dreary life shattered by the infidelity of his wife, Janice. How he resolves or further complicates his problems makes for a novel of the first order. The assumptions and obsessions that control our daily lives are explored in tantalizing detail by master novelist John Updike in this wise, witty, and sexy story.
Harry Angstrom was a star basketball player in high school and that was the best time of his life. Now in his mid-20s, his work is unfulfilling, his marriage is moribund, and he tries to find happiness with another woman. But happiness is more elusive than a medal, and Harry must continue to run–from his wife, his life, and from himself, until he reaches the end of the road and has to turn back....
From the Publisher
I read Rabbit, Run when I was in high school (and it wasn't even a school assignment!). Twenty years later (at least!), three very vivid scenes from that book still pop into my head from time to time. The first is the used-car lot, where Rabbit Angstrom, the former basketball star, works for his father-in-law. The second scene is in a very red Chinese restaurant that had changed over from a French restaurant only the week before. Rabbit is there with his old coach and two women that are not their wives, and they drink daiquiris and whiskey sours. This restaurant could have been (and was) in my small town. The third scene is the most harrowing, and I've repeated it as a cautionary tale to young mothers for years, telling the story as if it had happened to someone I know. Janice, Rabbit's wife, who slugs alcohol throughout her pregnancy, is drunk and bathing her newborn baby when something terrible happens. I won't ruin it by telling you more. I read hundreds of books a year, both for my job and for pleasure, so the fact that parts of this book are so indelibly etched in my mind is a testament to the talent and genius of John Updike.
P.S. all of the other books in the Rabbit series are equally unforgettable.
The hero of John Updike's Rabbit, Run (1960), ten years after the hectic events described in Rabbit Redux (1971), has come to enjoy considerable prosperity as Chief Sales Representative of Springer Motors, a Toyota agency in Brewer, Pennsylvania. The time is 1979: Skylab is falling, gas lines are lengthening, the President collapses while running in a marathon, and double-digit inflation coincides with a deflation of national confidence. Nevertheless, Harry Angstrom feels in good shape, ready to enjoy life at last – until his son, Nelson, returns from the West, and the image of an old love pays a visit to his lot. New characters and old populate these scenes from Rabbit's middle age, as he continues to pursue, in his erratic fashion, the rainbow of happiness.
Rabbit, now in his 50s and with a heart condition, is living in a condo in Florida. Nelson and his family come to stay and disaster unfolds. Rabbit has a serious heart attack after a boating accident with his granddaughter and Nelson has been embezzling the family firm to feed his cocaine habit.
It's 1989, and Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom feels anything but restful. In fact he's frozen, incapacitated by his fear of death-and in the final year of the Reagan era, he's right to be afraid. His 55-year-old body, swollen with beer and munchies and racked with chest pains, wears its bulk "like a set of blankets the decades have brought one by one." He suspects that his son Nelson, who's recently taken over the family car dealership, is embezzling money to support a cocaine habit.
Indeed, from Rabbit's vantage point-which alternates between a winter condo in Florida and the ancestral digs in Pennsylvania, not to mention a detour to an intensive care unit-decay is overtaking the entire world. The budget deficit is destroying America, his accountant is dying of AIDS, and a terrorist bomb has just destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland. This last incident, with its rapid transit from life to death, hits Rabbit particularly hard:
Imagine sitting there in your seat being lulled by the hum of the big Rolls-Royce engines and the stewardesses bring the clinking drinks caddy… and then with a roar and giant ripping noise and scattered screams this whole cozy world dropping away and nothing under you but black space and your chest squeezed by the terrible unbreathable cold, that cold you can scarcely believe is there but that you sometimes actually feel still packed into the suitcases, stored in the unpressurized hold, when you unpack your clothes, the dirty underwear and beach towels with the merciless chill of death from outer space still in them.
Marching through the decades, John Updike's first three Rabbit novels-Rabbit, Run (1960), Rabbit Redux (1971), and Rabbit Is Rich (1981)-dissect middle-class America in all its dysfunctional glory. Rabbit at Rest (1990), the final installment and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, continues this brilliant dissection. Yet it also develops Rabbit's character more fully as he grapples with an uncertain future and the consequences of his past. At one point, for example, he's taken his granddaughter Judy for a sailing expedition when his first heart attack strikes. Rabbit gamely navigates the tiny craft to shore-and then, lying on the beach, feels a paradoxical relief at having both saved his beloved Judy and meeting his own death. (He doesn't, not yet.) Meanwhile, this all-American dad feels responsible for his son's full-blown drug addiction but incapable of helping him. (Ironically, it's Rabbit's wife Janice, the "poor dumb mutt," who marches Nelson into rehab.)
His misplaced sense of responsibility-plus his crude sexual urges and racial slurs-can make Rabbit seems less than lovable. Still, there's something utterly heroic about his character. When the end comes, after all, it's the Angstrom family that refuses to accept the reality of Rabbit's mortality. Only Updike's irreplaceable mouthpiece rises to the occasion, delivering a stoical, one-word valediction: "Enough."